Saturday, 26 March 2016

Public Interest Litigations filed by Foreign Funded NGOs: Whose Interest?


Public Interest Litigation filed by Foreign Funded NGOs: Whose Interest?
Public Interest Litigation is a form of Judicial Remedy and is recognized as a Constitutional Right of all subjects in our country. Among the many criteria that Courts use to admit PILs is one where they check whether the petition is indeed one which serves public interest. Many PILs have been dismissed as the petitioner may have a hidden private interest.
PILs have been filed by individuals, organizations as well as by NGOs. Typically, when NGOs file a PIL or when their PILs are heard or judgement delivered, newspapers mention the name of the NGO. In the recent past, several such PILs have been filed by NGOs in various Courts in India.
  • Just who are these NGOs?
  • Where do they get the time and money for laborious legal procedures? Is it their part-time work or full-time? If the latter, what do they do for a living?
  • Are they so much in love with the Indian public that they are fighting for *our* interest?
  • Given that common Indian public have never clamoured for many of the causes that such NGOs litigate about, where do they get the idea on what to litigate on?
  • Are such public interest litigations really in the interest of the public of this Nation?
In this Post, we shall examine several PILs filed by NGOs. The causes vary. The Courts vary. But, one thing is common. They have all been filed by foreign funded NGOs, or FCRA-NGOs in our  parlance. As readers of my blog would know, FCRA is the Indian law which governs the flow of foreign funds to Indian organizations (NGOs, Government Orgs, etc..).
One may wonder on the need for such a compilation. Won’t the newspapers covering PILs by NGOs also mention the foreign funding aspect?
No. Not one newspaper mentioned it. They just mention NGO.
But, wait. Won’t Courts mention it in their verdict or observations or whatever?
No. Not one mention the foreign fundedness of the litigant NGO.
But wait. What is the big deal if they are foreign funded?
Allow me to elaborate on how a FCRA-NGO gets money from abroad. You see, every FCRA-NGO has to submit to their foreign donors (write a project proposal, say) on their prior activities in India, their interests and capabilities and have to describe what they plan to do if they receive a grant from the donor. The foreign donor then vets the proposal, finds the activities of the NGO to be consistent with its i.e., the foreign donor’s goals and decides to fund (or not) the Indian NGO via FCRA. Thus, when such a FCRA-NGO files a PIL, it is, by definition, acting on behalf of the foreign donor. There is no two ways to interpret this, given the mechanism of how the funds reached the FCRA-NGO.
Thus, we cannot be oblivious to the source of funds of the FCRA-NGO. We cannot divorce its actions from the intentions and desires of the foreign donor.
But, wait. Isn’t the World one peaceful Planet, populated by peace-loving people?
If you go down this route, you have lost me. Close the browser and bye.
But, wait, wait. Has not the new Government cracked down on FCRA-NGOs?
        Hmm.. I have a building called Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru to sell you. Interested?
But wait wait. There is one more loophole. May be the FCRA-NGO is also receiving Indian donations from within India. May be it is using this INR money for the PIL. Won’t it be fine then?
No. Once a NGO receives foreign funds, its actions should be assumed to be congruent to the interests of the foreign donor. Thus, such NGOs must be suspected a priori.
What do I want?
  • FCRA-NGOs should be barred from filing PILs
  • If the above is not possible, a disclosure in each PIL that the Petitioner is an agent of foreign donors is required; Don’t get alarmed by the use of the word “agent”. Let us check out the situation of foreign funded NGOs in the country that sends the largest sum to our NGOs, i.e., USA. Such NGOs receiving foreign funds in USA are declared, by law, as “Foreign Agents”. Such Foreign Agents in USA (i.e., US citizens/residents who run a NGO there) must declare their foreign agentness in every one of their promotional material, whenever they meet any Government servant etc.
Given that I have come across innumerable number of people (likely addicted to television) who misunderstand blog posts, tweets etc., the following becomes necessary.
What am I not saying?
  • I am not asking to forbid all NGOs from filing PILs. If a NGO is funded only by funds raised within India, of course it can be allowed to file PILs.
  • I am not asking for forbidding of any kind of litigation by FCRA-NGOs. FCRA-NGOs should of course possess the right to file any kind of petition, except PILs.
  • I have no public position on the legal matters of the PILs presented below, either for or against.
Ok then, Dive into the data below. Enjoy. Post your comments (be polite) in the comments section.
The footnote at the end describes how FCRA-NGOs are identified in the Tables below and lets you know how you can figure out their foreign funding yourselves.
[A] 2012. Himachal Pradesh High Court on HP’s “anti-conversion” law
Himachal Pradesh passed a Religious Freedom Bill in 2007. A section of it demanded that a person who failed to give due notice (to district authorities) before converting to another religion can be fined. This section was struck down by the HP HC. In all, Section 4 and Rules 3 and 5 of HP Freedom of Religion Rules, 2007, were struck down.  
This ruling came due to a PIL filed by Evangelical Fellowship of India and ANHAD. Who are they?
  • Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), FCRA-NGO, (DL/231650058)
    • EFI gets funds from Open Doors Intl (USA), BILD Intl (USA), Stiftung-CSI (Zurich), Evangelism Explosion Intl (USA), Barnabas Fund (USA), Equip-India (USA), Evangelical Fellowship of Asia (Japan), Viva Network (UK), Partners Intl (USA) etc.
    • In the same building as EFI, three more FCRA-NGOs exist. These are: Ceefi Supply Centre Trust (DL/231650490), Emmanuel Hospital Association (DL/231650016), and Vachan Trust (DL/231661156)
    • The building also houses the Christian Legal Association.
    • The building also houses Aspire Prakashan Pvt. Ltd. which runs (or used to run) Forward Press. Remember that? No? Mahishasura mardini? Yes? Same.
  • Act Now for Harmony And Democracy (ANHAD), FCRA-NGO (DL/231661032)
    • ANHAD gets funds from Christian Aid (UK), Action Aid (UK), American Jewish World Service (USA) and Oxfam (UK).
    • ANHAD also reports to have received funds from Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Ahmedabad. While CSJ is not a FCRA-NGO, at the same address as CSJ exists a FCRA-NGO called Institute for Development Education and Learning (IDEL) (GJ/41910191).
    • IDEL gets funds from Misereor (a missionary organization in Germany), Ford Foundation (USA), Action Aid (UK).
The striking down of parts of the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Rules was covered not only in India, but in USA as well. A few snippets:
  1. Christianity Today, 18/9/2012 Court in India's Most Hindu State Partially Repeals Anti-Conversion Law
  2. UCAN India, 31/8/2012 Court upholds anti-conversion law, knocks out major clause
  3. Times of India, 31/8/2012 HC partially strikes down Himachal's anti-conversion law
So, tell me. Who got the PIL filed? If I say that the rabid evangelical Organization, Partners International of USA did it, can you contest that?
[B] Ban on Jallikattu, Kambala, Captive (Temple) Elephants
Feb. 2016:
  • Karnataka High Court Notice on Kambala Notification PIL filed by People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India (DL/231660443)
    • PETA-India is a non-profit company. At least two of its Directors appear not to be Indian citizens
    • Based on their 2012-13 Annual Report and FC6 return for the same year, it is estimated that foreign funds account for 65% of its annual income
    • PETA-India receives foreign funding via FCRA exclusively from PETA-Virginia.
May 2014
  • Supreme Court bans Jallikattu PIL filed by Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) (TN/75900766) and People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India (DL/231660443)
    • AWBI gets very little money from abroad
    • It has not filed FCRA return for 2013-14 and 2014-15 yet.
Jan. 2016
Aug. 2015
[C] Stray Dog Menace
Oct. 2015
  • Writ in Kerala High Court by OM Joy with Jose Maveli of Janaseva Sisubhavan, Aluva. Licence to catch stray dogs was cancelled. Kerala HC issues urgent notice to Union Minister.
Nov. 2015
  • PIL filed by Janaseva Sisubhavan in Supreme Court. Seeks protection of children from stray dogs. SC issues notice to Union Government and others.
    • Aluva Janaseva (which runs Janaseva Sisubhavan) is a FCRA-NGO located in United Christian College, Aluva, Kerala with Registration KL/52850548.
    • Aluva Janaseva receives funding from individuals who appear to be of a specific religious persuasion settled in Canada, Netherlands and USA.
Mar. 2016
  • Special leave petition (SLP) filed by Animal Welfare Board of India (TN/75900766). Supreme Court directs all State Governments to sterilize and vaccinate all stray dogs.
Remarks
           Note how a person associated with Janaseva Sisubhavan filed the Oct. 2015 writ in Kerala HC, upon stray dog catching license cancellation. In the next month, the same FCRA-NGO files the PIL on stray dog menace in Kerala in Supreme Court, which is admitted, heard etc..
[D] Government enforcement of FCRA
Nov. 2015
  • PIL filed by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) demanding that the enforcement of FCRA should be done by an independent body. Their argument: As certain political parties themselves may have received foreign funding, they (parties) cannot enforce the law properly, being part of Government. 
    • ADR is a FCRA-NGO (GJ/41910350) in Ahmedabad.
    • Its donors include: Ford Foundation (USA), Omidyar Network (USA), Arpan Foundation (USA), HIVOS (Netherlands), Google.
[E] Board of Visitors to oversee Prisons
Jan. 2016
  • PIL in Madras High Court filed by People’s Watch, “seeking appointment of skilled individuals as non official members of Board of Visitors headed by Collectors in every district and entrusted with the responsibility of keeping a check on living conditions in prisons”. The article says that Henri Tiphagne, head of People’s Watch stated in the affidavit, “Prisons have traditionally been and still remain closed institutions. The physical structure of prisons and the archaic rules of management of these punitive institutions endow them with a cover of obscurity in which human rights can be unofficially violated and officially denied.
    • People’s Watch is a unit of (i.e., a part of) Centre for Promotion of Social Concerns (CPSC),  Madurai. CPSC is a FCRA-NGO (TN/75940138).
    • CPSC gets funds from Misereor (German Missionary organization), Ford Foundation (USA), HIVOS (Netherlands), Dan Church Aid (Denmark) etc.
    • Henri Tiphagne received Amnesty International’s eighth International Human Rights Award this year. He is the first Indian to receive it.
    • Note that the foreign funded NGO asks a pointed question. It seeks the appointment of ‘social workers’ in the Boards of Visitors of prisons so as to check on living conditions.
[F] Rules for Jogini/Devadasi Ban
Dec. 2015
  • A PIL was filed in the Andhra Pradesh High Court by “Pratigya” which works on anti-human trafficking in regions of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana & Karnataka.
    • The Andhra Pradesh Devadasis (Prohibition of Dedication) Act was formulated in 1988, but the rules governing its implementation were never framed, due to which it could not be implemented. The PIL sought the framing of the rules which was granted by AP HC.
    • The Times of India news item does not mention the Petitioner’s identity, but a news release from Freedom Challenge (FC), Atlanta mentions it. There is no reportage of this story in Indian media except for the ToI story.
    • The same is also reported by Dalit Freedom Network (DFN), United Kingdom, which testifies its relation to “Pratigya”
    • Operation Mobilization (OM), an International Christian Missionary Organization and headquartered in Atlanta is the founding member of Freedom Challenge.
    • The OM/FC press release as well as the DFN web post are nearly verbatim reproductions of a Post in Facebook by an organization called Good Shepherd Church of India (GSCI). The Post mentions that Pratigya is an activity of Operation Mercy India Foundation (OMIF) in affiliation with GSCI.
    • The All India Christian Council (AICC)’s Facebook account shared this Post.
    • GSCI, OMIF and AICC are FCRA-NGOs. They are all co-located in a campus called Logos Bhavan in Ranga Reddy District, Telangana. Their FCRA registration numbers are: TS/10220141, TS/10220133 and TS/10220227. Four other FCRA-NGOs are also located in the same address.
    • GSCI and OMIF receive funds from Dalit Freedom network and Operation Mobilisation organizations across the world.
    • The celebration on the success of the PIL across the world (Atlanta, London etc.) is thus understandable.
[G] Missing Children, Alcoholism among Children
Jan. 2015
  • PIL filed by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) (Save the Childhood Foundation (SCF)) in the Supreme Court on “missing children”
Dec. 2014
  • PIL filed by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Foundation) in the Supreme Court on the need to include ill-effects of alcohol and drugs in school curricula. SC issues notice to Central Government.
    • Save the Childhood Foundation (SCF) is a FCRA-NGO. Located in New Delhi, its registration is DL/231661122. It received very little money via FCRA.
    • At the same address as SCF is Association for Voluntary Action (AVA). As per BBA’s website, AVA is the entity to which donations pertaining to BBA should be made.
    • Association for Voluntary Action is a FCRA-NGO (DL/231650169). It receives sizeable funding from Stichting Global March Against Child Labour (Netherlands), Bread for the World (Netherlands), Wake Foundation (Taiwan), Stichting Wilde Ganzen (Netherlands) etc.
[H] Validity of Article 377
Feb. 2016
  • Curative petition filed by Naz Foundation seeking a relook at the earlier judgement of the Supreme Court.
    • Naz Foundation, New Delhi is a FCRA-NGO (DL/231650947)
    • It gets sizeable funds from American India Foundation (USA), Standard Chartered Bank (UK), Australian Sports Outreach Program (Aus), SCB Women Win (Netherlands) and several individuals abroad.
[I] Appointment of Central Vigilance Commissioner and Vigilance Commisioner
Aug. 2015
  • PIL filed challenging the appointment of Central Vigilance Commissioner and Vigilance Commissioner by Common Cause.
    • Common Cause is FCRA-NGO (DL/231650659). It has not received any foreign funds since 2006.
[J] Road widening to be consistent with statutory norms
June 2015
  • A PIL filed in Karnataka High Court by Environment Support Group (ESG) was dismissed, largely on the grounds that one of the petitioners had a private interest in the matter. Let us leave aside the grounds on which the PIL was dismissed. The PIL was filed to demand that road widening projects taken up by the State Government must be based on planning, norms and guidelines.
    • ESG is a FCRA-NGO (KA/94421056).
    • ESG’s funding is largely from Action Aid (UK)
    • ESG opposes the establishment of several facilities related to Indian Institute of Science (IISc), DRDO, BARC and ISRO in a place called Chellakere near Chitradurga in Karnataka, on the grounds that the allotted land is a natural grazing area for a special species of cattle therein.
[K] World Cultural Festival near River Yamuna
Mar. 2016
  • Petition filed in the National Green Tribunal by Swechha on “damages” caused to the environment due to the conduct of World Culture Festival around the Yamuna River, near Delhi, by The Art of Living Foundation
    • Swechha is a FCRA-NGO (DL/231660913).
    • Its donors include: British High Commission (Delhi), US Embassy (Delhi), HIVOS (Netherlands), Voluntary Service Overseas (UK) etc.
[L] Field Trials of Genetically Modified Crops
Apr 2014
  • PIL filed in Supreme Court seeking ban on recklessly allowing field trials of Genetically Modified Crops in India, by `Gene Campaign’
    • Gene Campaign is FCRA-NGO (DL/231650825).
    • It gets funds from Action Aid (UK), Heinrich Boll Foundation (Germany), Oxfam (UK).
    • In 2006, it received funds from Ford Foundation (USA) and International Development Research Centre (Canada)
[M] Human Rights etc.
  • Several PILs have been filed by bodies associated with Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) in various Courts. These are compiled here.
    • HRLN is a collective and its FCRA office is registered as Socio-Legal Information Centre, (SLIC) Tardeo, Mumbai.
    • SLIC is FCRA-NGO (MH/83780554).
    • It receives funds from US Embassy (Delhi), Karuna Trust (UK), Dan Church Aid (Denmark), MacArthur Foundation (USA), Action Aid (UK), Bread for the World (Germany), Misereor (Germany), Christian Aid (UK), European Union (Belgium) and the Royal Netherlands Embassy (Delhi).
[N] Right To Education
Apr. 2014
  • PIL filed in the Supreme Court by National Coalition for Education (NCE) alleging that schools across the Nation were violating the RTE Act. The Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India directed the Central and State Governments to respond.
    • NCE is located at the same address as All India Primary Teachers’ Federation (AIPTF) which is a FCRA-NGO (DL/231660011). Reni Jacob, Advocacy Director of World Vision India is a Trustee of NCE.
    • AIPTF receives funds from Global Campaign for Education (South Africa), Education International Brussels (Belgium), Canadian Teachers Federation (Canada) etc.
    • Apart from NCE/AIPTF, a huge number of foreign funded NGOs carry out advocacy tasks in the implementation of RTE Act. For details, refer to this article.
[O] Disabled Friendly Rail Stations
Sep. 2016
  • PIL filed in Mumbai High Court asking the Railways to make rail stations disabled-friendly. News item says that the PIL was filed by India Centre for Human Rights and Law (ICHRL). However, ICHRL is part of HRLN which itself is an initiative of Socio-Legal Information Centre (SLIC). SLIC has already been covered in Section [M] above and is a FCRA-NGO (MH/83780554).
[P] Upgradation of Disposal Facilities of CFL bulbs
Sep. 2016
  • Plea filed in the National Green Tribunal asking the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to upgrade the facilities towards treatment and disposal of compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) that contain mercury. Plea was filed by "Toxic Links" says the news item. However, Toxic Links is only an initiative (i.e., not a legal entity) of "The Just Environment Charitable Trust, Mumbai (JECT)". JECT is a FCRA-NGO (DL/231660166) which is funded among other donors by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit which may be getting donations from the German Government.
FOOTNOTE
In the above, the FCRA-NGOs are identified by their name and also by their FCRA registration number. The latter is usually coded as “XY/123456789”, where “XY” is a two-letter code for the State in which the NGO is registered (KA=Karnataka, HR=Haryana etc..) and the 9-digit (sometimes 8-digit) number is the registration number.
The funding details of each FCRA-NGO can be checked by anyone at fcraonline.nic.in  ; For its sources on PILs, this Post uses newspaper articles as well as many articles from livelaw.in ; They have all been hyperlinked within each description. I acknowledge these sources.
I also acknowledge the FCRA Wing, Ministry of Home Affairs for making available the FC6/FC4 returns in public domain, without having to go through via the idiotic RTI route. Two twitter well wishers are also thanked for their support and suggestions.

9 comments:

  1. It is common practice that foreign intelligence agencies have pseudo philanthropy organizations which fund those NGOs who are willing to be a tool to comply with their agenda .So it is prudent to verifiy their motives to file PILs.

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  2. Isn't some of this good? Especially related to devadasi and alcoholism in schools? Does it matter who files it? You seem meticulous. Liked reading it. WCF related was ludicrous

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    1. You may be correct up to a point. The problem in this is they use this to try to establish as good public concerned NGO and use the good name to do (you know what).

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  3. Great Job. Every PIL filed must have this information openly. Further, I agree that FCRA NGOs should NOT be allowed to file PILs. If an online petition is started at Change.org, I will definitely help garner as much support as possible.
    Every Indian interested in the country remaining independent should preserve this article and also forward to as many people as possible.

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  4. Further why did the HP Government NOT challenge the HC decision in the SC?

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  5. This is mine of info, dear brother read/spread/use it before it is too late.

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  6. Good work done by anyone ought to be applauded including foreign funded NGO, s. Similarly the bad or ill intentioned PILs must be brought to everyone notice to have a wider debate. Our judiciary is working fine. Have faith on it and fight out injustice.

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  7. Absolutely disgusted.

    Is there a way for citizens to file a PIL to have these organizations banned form India?

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    1. Citizens can file PIL. In this case, it may have to be in Supreme Court. But citizens' PIL cannot seek a ban on FCRA-NGOs. However citizens can and should seek a ban on FCRA-NGOs using PIL. This can and should be done by Law Ministry as well.

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